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New Brandywine Country Club plan includes school, fewer homes

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The future development of the former Brandywine Country Club may now include a new school and fewer homes. | PHOTO COURTESY OF CAPANO

WILMINGTON – The owner of the former Brandywine Country Club will soon be returning to the public with a new proposal that includes the Brandywine School District and fewer homes.

Capano Residential, led by developer Louis Capano III, has been working for the last five years to find a redevelopment plan that will be accepted by New Castle County and neighboring residents. Much like the redevelopment of the former Cavaliers Country Club near the Christiana Mall, the property will eventually seek a rezoning from the county from suburban (S) to suburban transition (ST) that will allow denser development.

The former country club, located at 2822 Shipley Road, was acquired by a Capano subsidiary in July 2012 for $1 million and later mortgaged for about $4.5 million, according to county land records. Since then, the developer has proposed four different plans for the nearly 120-acre tract’s future that have never got off the ground.

Those proposals ranged from a high of 563 residential units to the now-proposed 365 – the fewest put forward by Capano yet and about 16% fewer than proposed last year. Capano representatives declined Friday to comment on the project’s update, deferring to Louis Capano, who was unavailable for comment.

The future Brandywine Country Club redevelopment will include 300 apartment units. | PHOTO COURTESY OF CAPANO

The development would feature 300 apartment units in eight buildings on the western edge of the property near the Concord Square shopping center, which Capano also owns. Rents would reportedly range from $1,200 for a studio unit to $1,900 a month for a three-bedroom unit. It would also have 41 single-family homes, ranging in cost from $575,000 to $900,000, and 24 townhomes, ranging in cost from $400,000 to $450,000, toward the center of the former 18-hole course.

Although Capano proposed at one time instituting age-restrictions on some of the housing in the development, in part to tamp down on the daily average traffic in the area, it is no longer proposing any restrictions.

The majority of the neighboring homeowners’ concerns with the project have been focused on traffic, especially along Shipley Road. Capano in turn has sought to mitigate those concerns through its designs, even proposing to install a traffic circle. The new proposal scraps a Shipley Road entrance to the residential community altogether though, keeping in line with an alternative concept that Capano proposed last year.

In plans submitted to the state and county earlier this year, the developer proposes to donate about 44 acres to the Brandywine School District (BSD), which will build a 76,000-square-foot school with an entry to Shipley Road. The school, which would be surrounded by athletic fields and ballfields, would not connect with a road to the residential community being built by Capano – eliminating concerns about pass-through traffic.

The newest proposal would donate about 44 acres to the Brandywine School District for a new early education center.

The proposed school is a replacement of the Bush Early Education Center that currently operates out of a portion of Hanby Elementary School in the neighboring Chalfonte community, less than a mile from the country club. The Bush school serves more than 425 students ages 3 and 4 in half-day pre-K programs, and has seen ballooning interest in recent years.

The new school would serve dual purposes in teaching pre-K and special education for the district, said Lisa Lawson, BSD assistant superintendent for student supports. The district hopes that tactic will make it more attractive in Delaware’s Certificate of Need process that grades school construction projects. That process has denied BSD in its Bush school application the last two years for the nearly $42 million price tag.

“Right now, one in four students in the district do not have any child care or preschool or early education experience,” Lawson said, noting that may be due to cost, lack of knowledge of opportunities, and other factors.

In another proposal to help advance the project, Lawson said that BSD is offering to serve children with disabilities from neighboring districts at the school should they not have capacity. The proposed building has a 1,200-square-foot physical and occupational therapy room and 4,400-sqaure-foot therapy pool to meet their needs.

The project moved from a proposed site in the Brandywood neighborhood to the former country club after a discussion between Capano and former BSD Superintendent Mark Holodick, Lawson said. The site off Shipley Road is more accessible for the district’s buses than the old Brandywood Elementary School site, which sits inside a neighborhood, and allows to future expansion if needed.

“There’s obviously more room at the old country club site and better accessibility for our families,” Lawson said.

By Jacob Owens

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